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How I Tried To Speak Of Gender Equity And Equality Through My Durga Dolls… Happy Dussehra!

I wanted to use the Golu as a platform to talk about the importance of gender equality and equity, so this is what I did.,

Navratri is story telling and listening time in Southern parts of India, especially in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Families who celebrate it follow the tradition of keeping brightly painted clay or wooden dolls in steps.

Golu – a medium of displaying and passing on stories to the younger generation

Golu as we call the arrangement in Tamil, primarily features the figures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

People also display dolls in sets narrating stories from Ithihasas and Puranas. They are often creative and try to recreate everyday scenes, royal processions, weddings and festivals in their Golu. They also display their collection of miniature kitchen utensils, artefacts and stuff.

I have always seen Golu as a visual communication medium which helped people to transfer the stories and values of the past to the present day kids and adults.

Golu is also the ‘haldi-kumkum’ festival for South Indian women, where women and their families get to socialise, visit each other’s houses and exchange haldi-kumkum. Being an aesthete, I have always been excited about the Navratri festival right from my childhood because it gives me an opportunity to admire the artistic talents of fellow women.

Speaking of gender equity and equality through the dolls of Golu

Having said that it’s been few years since I stopped buying dolls from outside and started making my own dolls because I wanted to get past the traditional stories from the past and talk about things that matter to me the most.

Since I find Golu to be an educative platform, I want to use it to create awareness on topics of social importance. Against this background, this year I decided to feature dolls to talk about the importance of Gender Equality and Equity in our society.

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I conceptualised the theme in such a way that I will make Ashtabhuja Durgas (Durga with eight hands) so that they could hold placards related to the topic.

Here are my dolls.

Mansplaining Mardini

Women are interrupted more by men, and even the questions and explanations come to us from men in paternalistic or patronising tones.

Whether men do this intentionally or inadvertently, mansplaining comes from a place of cultural conditioning and gender stereotyping. Mansplaining fosters hostile environment by disrupting women’s or other gender’s voices and creating gender inequality.

Sexual Assaulters Samharini

According to the National Family Health Survey 5 report, about 18% of married women said they cannot say ‘no’ to their husbands even if they did not want to have sexual intercourse. The statistics may shock some of us but the fact is that as a society we do not nurture the culture of saying and accepting “No”.

Kids from an young age have to be taught the skill of saying “no” and slowly we need to go beyond “no means no” and teach them about “enthusiastic yes”. Also, we need to reiterate that “yes” or “no” decisions are not static and that they could change the mind at point in time. Kids also need to be taught about taking “no” as the response in the right spirit. They have to be educated that convincing is a form of manipulation and does not count as content.

We have miles to go in the journey of sexuality education but let us at least start the conversations at home!

Equality Eashwari

According to the World Inequality Report 2022, men in India earn 82 per cent of the labour income whereas women earn only 18 per cent of it. LinkedIn’s Opportunity Index 2021 report indicated that nearly 85 percent of Indian women said they have missed out on a raise, promotion or work offer because of their gender. And this is sadly higher than the region’s average of 60 percent. On one hand, women suffer due to unequal pay and on the other, they are weighed down by the pink tax.

WEF says the South Asian region which includes India could take around 200 years to actually close the gender gap. How can we contribute to closing of this gender gap within our capacity at our homes and workplaces? Give it a thought!

Menstruation Mahodari

According to WHO, a woman menstruate approximately for 3500 days in her lifetime.

A sanitary pad from known brands that manufacture sanitary pads costs about six rupees per pad. Any one with a basic math knowledge could estimate that a woman will spend a minimum of Rs. 42,000 on sanitary pads, assuming that she uses two sanitary pads per day. This figure would be higher if her flow is heavy and she uses more than two pads a day and a family with more girl children means bigger budget needs to be set aside every month for this purpose.

This might appear to be an affordable expense for urban middle class families whereas in a country where around 83 million population are still below poverty line, menstrual hygiene products are still unaffordable even for families that are on or slightly above BPL.

Then there is the stigma of periods. Menstruation blood is told to be impure blood and women are expected to eat, sleep, walk and live their life in a certain way during their periods.

Chores Chittarupini

While women are not asking salaries for the work they do for their families, being unappreciative of her contributions to the family or over flattering her with “selfless” labelling yet silently letting her suffer with all the household chores all alone is something that’s not really fair.

Irrespective of whether it is her choice to stay at home or to go out and work, she needs to be supported on household work by the family members. Cooking, washing, cleaning, baby sitting, giving care for elders and so on, whatever we were conditioned to believe that only mommas could do or do better, let men in the family also do; learn by practicing and gain expertise over the period of time.

If we wish to truly live the definition of family which says family is all about sharing and caring, we gotta share the responsibilities and chores to demonstrate that we truly care!

Lawyer Lokeshwari

Women are conditioned to be gentle and polite under all circumstances right from childhood and this somehow makes them sheepish that they dread to stand up for themselves or voice their opinions and feelings. Women need to develop the courage to define her boundaries and be ready to whip anyone and everyone who tries to violate the same.

To do so, it is essential that women educate themselves about the laws that are in place to protect them.

Degendering Durga

The first and foremost lesson in the subject of Gender Equality is raising our personal awareness that gender is not binary.

This single awareness alone is capable of unlocking many rigid doors that come in the way of achieving a equitable society. Only after that can we go about tackling our unconscious biases.


Ancient Indians did not shy away from gender fluidity. They even celebrated and worshipped it. Ardhanareeshwara stands the proof of it and is a beautiful depiction of the non-binary nature of the world.

The first and foremost lesson in gender equality is “Gender is different from sex and Gender is not a binary”.

How I gave out the message to those who attended my Golu

Before getting to Gender Equity and Equality, I set the context by talking about gender based discrimination and the various ways people are violent to women. Right from mansplaining to inequality in pay, glass ceilings at work, emotional violence due to stigmas around menstruation, pink tax, gender inequality at homes, sexual violence and more, i touched upon some of the major topics related to the subject.

I concluded the narration by emphasising that women should know their rights and claim them courageously and as a society, we need to get past stereotypical binaries and ensure equal rights and opportunities for every human being.

Handmade Golu Dolls

If Vijayadasami or Dussehra that marks the end of nine-day long Navratri is all about victory of good over evil, this Dussehera let’s remind ourselves that there exist no separate demons in this age unlike our ithihasas and puranas.

Our discriminatory minds are the real demons. The intolerance which gets manifested as violence and all acts of inequality are demonic. The real victory of good over evil happens when we unlearn our social conditioning over the years; learn and practice equality and wholehearted inclusion in everyday life.

Happy slaying of our inner demons – Happy Dussehra!

Images source: Shobhitha Krishnamoorthy 

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About the Author

Shobhitha Krishnamoorthy

Shobhitha is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion ambassador who has been working and voicing equal opportunity for everyone. Shobhitha is life enthusiast who chooses to live her life one day at a time. She is read more...

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